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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Post Something on Social Media

If you want to create an authentic social media presence, you need to avoid these common traps.
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Art Credit: Tim Kwan

As a digital journalist, managing an online presence consumes a good part of my day. Like many millennials, my personal life and work life are melded together online to create the online persona that I present to the digital world.

Whether on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even Pinterest, the amount of time we spend crafting how we appear online to colleagues, acquaintances, and friends is becoming increasingly important. The cultivation of an authentic online presence fosters connection, creates impact, and can help to convince the digital world that you’re someone worth listening to.

But, even with all the advantages in digital media and online social spheres, it’s easy to fall victim to certain traps that can lead to the downfall of an online brand. Here is a look at two areas where the crafting of online personas can go wrong:

1. Oversharing

As humans, we seek to be heard and understood. But in the digital landscape, aggressively seeking attention can become a dangerous pursuit that can actually work against us.

In her book, “Daring Greatly”, shame researcher Dr. Brené Brown gives this advice about oversharing,

“Sharing yourself to teach or move a process forward can be healthy and effective, but disclosing information as a way to work through your personal stuff is inappropriate…”

We can all spot an online overshare; it’s that overly intimate post about a new relationship, endless complaints about an entry-level job, or eighteen Instagram photos in a row showcasing an entire road trip to the beach. Regardless of the method, sharing very intimate details, complaints, or endless photos or updates can result in your online audience disconnecting.

Giving others insight into your life’s challenges in order to shape perspective or posting carefully considered updates in order to inform are great ways to build an online community. However, flooding your social networks with overly personal information is a quick way to lose eyes and ears online.

2. Extreme Filtering

Picture this: you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and pass by a pretty photo snapped by an old college girlfriend. You haven’t talked to her in two years, but know that she has a glamorous PR gig in New York City and recently started dating someone.

From the looks of her Facebook page, she has it all together, and, sure enough, inside the tiny square on your iPhone sits a perfectly plated gourmet farm-to-table concoction and behind it her dark-haired, blue-eyed investment banker boyfriend. The caption reads something like, “Couldn’t be happier with the love of my life.”

What that tiny square picture didn’t say was that later that night your old friend got into a fight with her boyfriend before coming home to a dead mouse in her tiny studio apartment and an email from her angry, controlling boss.

Author, Shauna Niequest, penned a thoughtful piece surrounding Instagram that’s worth resurrecting. She calls carefully filtered Instagram photos “partial truths” and this is just what they are.

“For many of us, walking away from the Internet isn’t an option,” Niequist writes. “But using it to connect instead of compare is an option, and a life-changing one. Using technology to build community instead of building carefully-curated images of ourselves is an option, and a worthwhile one.”

Not to say your friend should share these details with her entire online network just for the sake of being authentic—that could easily cross into “overshare” territory. But consistently portraying partial truths about yourself or brand online will eventually become evident to your audience who will soon have nothing to relate to—because no one’s life is that perfect.

When we bring our whole selves—failures and triumphs—to our relationships with others, even online, our bonds and community become stronger.

Achieving Authenticity

Creating an authentic online persona that’s worth listening to involves actively balancing sharing with filtering. It’s equal parts discretion and passion. Whether you’re promoting yourself, a brand, or an organization, authenticity is key.

To help me decide if a post will enhance or detract from the authenticity of my online presence, I use 3 questions as a quick guide:

  1. Is it useful? Is the media that I’m tweeting, posting to Facebook, etc. of use to my digital networks? Whether providing a nugget of information, breaking news, or sharing an inspirational quote or beautiful photo, if I think someone else will benefit intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually from my post, I’ll push it out.

  2. Is it truthful? Is what I’m broadcasting to my friends, acquaintances and colleagues an accurate representation of who I am personally and professionally? This is not an overshare; it’s a careful consideration of whether or not my online presence reflects what I stand for personally, or what my company, nonprofit, or brand represents.

  3. Is it fruitful? Will it spark conversation or drive others to support my company or cause? In other words, will what I’m sharing create something bigger or make an impact, whether in the form of an online debate or dollars for a charity?

Perhaps it's time for you to take a moment to consider what's worth sharing. It just might give your online persona the boost it needs, for you and for your career!

(Photo by Tim Kwan )